India and the US today agreed "in principle" to a logistics exchange agreement to enable both militaries to use each other's assets and bases for repair and replenishment of supplies, an issue which did not find favour with the previous UPA government.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and visiting US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter made it clear that the agreement, which will be signed in "weeks" or "coming months", does not entail deployment of American troops on Indian soil.
Ramping up bilateral defence ties, both sides agreed to set up a new bilateral Maritime Security Dialogue between officials from their respective defence and foreign affairs ministries.
This came as India and the US emphasised on freedom of navigation and need for international based order, in an apparent reference to China's assertiveness in South China Sea.
Following the delegation-level talks at South Block here, both countries also decided to enhance on-going navy-to-navy discussions to cover submarine-related issues.
Both countries will also deepen cooperation in maritime domain awareness by finalising a 'White Shipping' agreement in the near future.
Carter said India and the US agreed to two new projects under the Defence Trade and Technology Initiative (DTTI). This included a tactical biological detection unit, Carter said.
On growing Indo-US military exchanges, Parrikar said, "As our engagement deepens, we need to develop practical mechanisms to facilitate such exchanges. In this context, Secretary Carter and I agreed in principle to conclude a Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) in the coming months."
LEMOA is a tweaked version of Logistics Support Agreement (LSA) which facilitates the provision of logistical support, supplies and services between the US military and the armed forces of partner countries on a reimbursable basis, and provides a framework that governs the exchange of logistics support, supplies and services.
Explaining the proposed agreement, Parrikar said it is for providing logistics whenever they need fuel or other support during operations like the humanitarian exercise done in wake of the devastating earthquake in Nepal.
"This will help if any such situation comes up. Logistics is a very important part of the operation. It will be on case by case basis," Carter said, adding that "all issues" relating to the deal have been resolved.
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